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Microsoft Flight Sim 2004 - A century of flight PC CD-ROM

Published by Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by Microsoft
Released - Out Now
Price : £49.99

You all know by now that this year completes a whole century of flight. Microsoft Flight Simulator has been a superb series throughout the last two decades and it’s fitting that this latest version celebrates not only 100 years of flight but 20 years of Microsoft Flight Simulator. Of course such a double celebration deserves a memorable product to put the icing on the cake. Microsoft has really pushed the boat out this time and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 - A Century of Flight is not only a top notch simulator, it’s also the best Microsoft Flight Simulator to date.

This time around the aircraft selection is a mix of the past and the present; a subtle blend of the historic and those models that are still in use. The included aircraft are as follows:

• 1903 Wright Flyer
• Curtiss JN-4D “Jenny”
• Vickers F.B. 27A
• Ryan NYP “Spirit of St. Louis”
• Ford 4-AT Tri-Motor
• Model 5B and 5C Vega
• de Havilland DH-88 “Comet”
• Douglas DC-3
• Piper J-3 Cub
• Robinson R22 Beta II
• Schweizer SGS 2-32
• Extra 300S
• Cessna Skyhawk SP Model 172
• Cessna Skylane Model 182S
• Cessna Grand Caravan C208B
• Cessna Caravan C208 Amphibian
• Mooney M20M “Bravo”
• Beechcraft Baron 58
• Beechcraft King Air 350
• Bell 206B JetRanger III
• Bombardier Learjet 45
• Boeing 737-400
• Boeing 747-400
• Boeing 777-300

If you own a recent version of Flight Simulator you’ll notice that a significant portion of these aircraft have been included before. This doesn't matter though as this time around they all look better, especially in virtual cockpit mode. The classic/historic aircraft all look brilliant and the developers have done an excellent job.

Flight Simulator 2004 is perhaps the most complete flight simulation package to date. Once again you have access to a whole range of flying lessons (student, private, instrument, commercial and airline), you can even create your own flights or choose one from an impressive selection of historical flights and fictitious scenarios. There is a section on ‘A Century of Flight’ (written by Flying Magazine columnist Lane Wallace) which includes articles on nine of the historical aircraft. You can also access the historical flights from these articles. Also included is a ‘Learning Center’. The Learning Center includes information that is invaluable to beginners. There are more than 120 articles in all, that range from the essential basics to more advanced topics. Flight Simulator 2004 does not come with a huge manual like it used to do but the depth of the Learning Center goes someway to compensating for this. You can even take the simulation online and compete in aerobatic competitions and races if you want to.

Visually this is easily the best version of Flight Simulator. Whilst the terrain graphics don’t offer a significant improvement over Flight Simulator 2002, the virtual cockpits (which are now fully interactive), the increased weather (there is a superb dynamic weather option as well as the ability to sync with the real world weather via the Internet) and airport visuals are truly impressive. New weather themes have been included this time around too. You can choose from building storms, winter wonderland and major thunderstorm to name but a few. The airports also look much, much better. Best of all though the framerate is more than manageable on a decent computer. It has almost always been the case with every release of Flight Simulator that a new CPU, graphics card and an increased amount of RAM are needed to make the whole thing run smoothly. I was quite happy to see the simulation average 35-40 fps with all the details turned up to the maximum running only on a modest GeForce4 Ti4200.

Generally MSFS 2004 is fine for deaf gamers; however there are a couple of problems that mean the package, as a whole, is not perfect. The very useful flying lessons are once more unsubtitled which is a shame as they are fantastic tutorials. The Learning Center offers a wealth of information and a majority of that information is in text. However, there are media clips that are not subtitled. If you look at the section on GPS, in the Learning Center, you’ll see a media clip that explains how to understand the GPS readings and this isn't subtitled, which is unfortunate as it’s very useful information. Once again the air traffic control conversations are shown in text, which is brilliant news for all you virtual pilots out there. The very useful kneeboard has all its information shown in text and the information in the Century of Flight section has all its information shown in text.

There is no doubt about it; Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 is the best in the long running series by far. The presentation is immaculate and it not only honours a century of flight but the series 20th anniversary too. It doesn't offer massive improvements over Flight Simulator 2002 but nevertheless fans of the series are going to want it for the historical aircraft alone and it’s definitely worth it.

Overall Game Rating: 9.2/10
Another top notch title in the legendary Microsoft Flight Simulator series that suitably celebrates a century of flight and 20 years of Flight Simulator.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The flying lessons need to be subtitled to make it perfect for deaf gamers but nevertheless it's still very deaf gamer friendly.